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Nearly 600 Chester County students participate in science research competition

Chester County’s future doctors, engineers, mathematicians and scientists took the stage on March 20 for the 2017 Chester County Science Research Competition Awards Ceremony. They were there to celebrate the work of the 585 young scientists that competed in the Chester County Science Research Competition earlier this month, coming together from 31 Chester County schools in grades 4 through 12. In addition to exploring their interest in the sciences, students also competed in the hopes of winning a number of awards and recognitions. In grades 6-12, one of these recognitions includes the chance to advance to the Delaware Valley Science Fair where students have the opportunity to win over $1 million in college scholarships.

Though the Chester County Science Research Competition project categories are predetermined, the specific topics of the projects are limited only by the interest and imagination of the students. The competition, which is sponsored by CCRES and coordinated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), was held at the University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville. Students in grades 6 through 12 competed in the Lucy Balian Rorke-Adams Fair on March 6, and students in grades 4 and 5 competed in the Jonas Salk Fair on March 7. The participants competed in 15 categories including: Behavioral and Social Science, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Consumer Science, Earth & Space Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Medicine & Health, Microbiology, Physics, Zoology and Team Projects.

Topic ideas can be sparked by anything from the desire to find a solution to a household problem to career aspirations in the field of science. And sometimes, from those sparks, a passion for the topic is ignited.

Take the project of Collegium Charter School twelfth grader Julianna Ohnjec, who studied the effect of material density on sound insulation. Testing materials including sand, water, fiberfill and cork, Julianna found that, while it was the one of the least dense materials, cork was the best at insulating sound. Her study has practical applications, from the recording studio to ensuring a great night of sleep at home. Having participated in science fairs since kindergarten, Ohnjec is a strong supporter of the fair, noting that in addition to learning about and expanding upon topics learned in the classroom, “The ability to start a project and see it through to the end is an important life skill that you learn through doing the science fair.”

Twelfth grade Downingtown STEM Academy student, Rachana Mudipalli, also let her interests guide her research. Five years ago, a nightly news segment about how bacteria adapts to antibiotics caught her attention. Ever since, she has been studying and presenting on the topic, further developing and expanding the study through her continued research and interaction with professionals. “The science fair really forces you to look at the world around you to see problems and then to see how science can be applied to solve those problems.”

 Julianna’s project won first place in her division and the third place Best of Show award. Rachana took home first place in her division as well, and earned the first place Best of Show award.

For a complete list of 2017 award-winners, please visit

The Chester County Science Research Competition is a feeder fair to the Delaware Valley Fair, which will be held at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, April 4-6. The competition will include some 1,000 students from Delaware, New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. Students competing at the Delaware Valley Fair will have the opportunity to win their share of nearly $1 million in college scholarships as well as move on to the International Science and Engineering Fair being held in Los Angeles, CA this year.